The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new trial in a murder case because the judge allowed testimony during trial about unrelated threats the defendant allegedly made to arresting officers in Louisiana.
Robert Linzy Bellon was convicted of shooting Frank Troy Dunlap Jr. to death after an evening of drinking and partying in October 1995. Bellon wasn't arrested until three years later when he was taken into custody on unrelated charges in Lake Charles, La. Authorities there discovered the Las Vegas murder warrant.
The issue, raised in the appeal, centers on threats Bellon allegedly made to those officers at the time of his arrest. The prosecutor in the murder trial included those threats in his opening statement and the defense objected.
But the trial judge allowed the statements and, during the trial, allowed those detectives to testify that Bellon had threatened to return to Lake Charles and kill them and their family members.
The high court agreed the statements were unrelated to the murder charges and that they should not have been admitted during trial.
"Under the statute, a witness may only testify to another uncharged act or crime if it is so closely related to the act in controversy that the witness cannot describe the act without referring to the other uncharged act or crime," the opinion says.
It concludes that the threats didn't meet that test and that they were "more reflective of his frustration at being arrested than demonstrative of his consciousness of guilt."
Justices Bob Rose, Jim Hardesty and Mark Gibbons all agreed the prejudicial testimony constitutes reversible error and requires that Bellon get a new trial on the murder charges.
- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.